Sweet and Sour Protest

The scene in Trafalgar Square on April 20 was a pretty amazing one as it was packed out for a demonstration by the Ethnic Catering Alliance, representing the many Chinese, Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani and Turkish restaurants and food outlets that have revolutionised eating out in Britain.

Showing the crowd – a ‘Hail Mary’ with the 10.5mm fisheye

Gordon Brown‘s proposal that British workers should be trained to fill staff shortages that are hitting ethnic restaurants no longer able to recruit staff from the home countries seems more a gift for comedy writers than a serious proposal. And our Polish friends who came over to fix our plumbing problems (and increasingly to run so many service industries) are hardly likely to bring a great knowledge of curry-making – or be prepared to accept the below minimum wages and poor working conditions that some ethnic restaurants offer. Nor do I foresee a great marketing opportunity for dumplings.

One of the speakers brought up the very pertinent observation that very few of the sons and daughters of migrants who grow up in this country want to go into the catering industry – and indeed their parents want them to do better, to become lawyers, doctors etc. The reason was pretty clear in the square, with the contrast between the smartly cut expensive suits of some of the restaurateurs around the platform and the mass-market clothing in the bulk of the square. Although owning a restaurant can be extremely profitable, working in one tends to be a low paid and unpleasant dead end. A real symptom of the actual problem of the restaurant industry was the lack of union participation in the event.

Of course there are very real problems, and a considerable amount of victimisation of migrant workers, both those here legally and those without permission to work here (who are never illegal workers but may be people working illegally.)

One of the longest placards at the demonstration – see above – read:


There are thousands of
illegals in the ports,
streets & working in the NHS
and HOME OFFICE. But Only
SOFT targets like Chinese restaurants
are being raided with heavy-handed
Tactics By BIA


Those who regard the BIA, (the Border and Immigration Agency, now a part of the UK Border Agency) as an institutionally racist organisation set up to implement an inherently racist immigration policy, largely driven by knee-jerk political responses to the distortion of a racist popular press would perhaps find this naive. Rather too much like being surprised that the SS persecuted Jews. But still of course something that people – and not just ethnic caterers – should be demonstrating about.

Ethnic Catering Alliance – Save the British Curry Industry on My London Diary

5 Responses to “Sweet and Sour Protest”

  1. ChrisL says:

    Don’t want to bog down with technical but I note how much you love that fish eye is it the only other lens (assuming 18-200 on camera) you carry for “regular”, as much as any day is that, work ? Looks like you filled in a bit with flash on the 2nd (reflections from the statue, nice balance otherwise) is this the SB800 and is it “permanently” mounted. BTW I love the shots you post of the rest of the “pack” spot the gear is a great game:-)
    Thanks for the tape up A on the M8 tip I was plagued with that dial moving, just needed a push to “deface” the Leica although I have blacked out the logos already it does attract less attention.

  2. Hi Chris,

    My standard kit with the Nikon also has a Sigma 12-24 and also a Nikon 20 f2.8, and I sometimes also have the M8 with a 21 and 35mm.

    Most of the time when there is any sun I’ll be shooting with the SB800 as fill, switching it off only where I think reflections will be a nuisance or occasionally if I don’t want to draw attention to myself. There are some events where flash just seems too obtrusive aslo, particularly some religious things.

    I often use it on dull days too, just to lift the subject out of the background a little. So fairly permanent, though I did forget to lock it on the other day and it bounced on the pavement, fortunately ok though. Sometimes I put the diffuser on it when working close, though it doesn’t make a great deal of difference to the light quality it does help to cover with the very wide shots. Usually it’s on auto ttl balanced, set at around -2/3 or -1 stop, though at times I deliberately overdo it for effect – or by miskate when I forget to set it back to normal! Sometimes I angle it to deliberately light only part of the subject, or use it at a setting I know will vignette. Quite a lot of the winter I was shooting with the SB 80DX as I’d managed to lose one SB800 and a second needed repair – haven’t yet got around to this, but I’m on my third now. The SB800 makes life much easier

    I also do quite a bit of playing with the vignetting in Lightroom on some pictures – can help where the flash has lit up foreground around the edges too much.

    The pictures on the web I seldom do much retouching, but for prints I might get rid of unwanted reflections – though sometimes I like the effect. Often I use a filter to make reduce the fisheye effect.

    The demo about the police treatment of photographers really made the pack the subject. I’m pretty hopeless at recognising cameras though.



  3. ChrisL says:

    Hi Peter
    Thanks very much for that insight. I know it’s the end results that matter but technically it’s interesting how you get there. I read much praise of the SB800 (eghttp://strobist.blogspot.com/ . I have used flash on the M8 but fear excommunication if caught.
    I didn’t say it before but will now I do appreciate your insights into what’s happening on the streets.
    Max Kozloff writes in “Photography and Fascination” Addison House 1979 “ in the study of any community the street photographer is obliged to stand off, an uncommitted free observer pursuing goals impossible to explain except by reference to a personal vision”

    Not sure about the definition of uncommited here though.

  4. Thanks for your comments.

    With the SB800 it is the way the flash and camera work together that is important – there wouldn’t be any advantage in using this rather than another gun on the M8. I have used one of the Nikon flashes on my Leica, but probably the 80DX.

    Interesting to take a look at ‘Bystander’ which is perhaps the best work on street photography.

  5. ChrisL says:

    I agree on “Bystander” any book that starts with outstanding full page photographs BEFORE the contents page gets extra brownie (no pun) points.

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